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I need a practical ConLaw book

DNW

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I'm sitting here in my second year ConLaw class and not learning a damn thing. The book is over 1700 pages long and it requires you to dig through tons of note cases to find substantive law. Furthermore, the authors included tons of law review articles that have no direct control on the topic and do not illuminate on the issues. I try to get what I could from this class, but I'm sure I'm at a huge disadvantage as compared to my other classmates who are studying under a respected Constitutional law scholar. My professor is very mechanistic and simplistic in her approach. She managed to bore the whole class to tears on some of the most exciting Constitutional topics. Nobody made a peep through Roe v. Wade, or Plessy v. Ferguson because noone has any respect for her teaching ability. There's floating rumor, not without cause, that she'll be axed soon. But for my shitty registration time last semester, I would've been in a different ConLaw class. ConLaw was one of the reasons I chose the law school route, and now I'm hating this class because of this stupid fucking $#(*&#@($&.

In any case, thanks for reading my rant. I need to get a good and practical ConLaw book. I want the meat and potatoes of ConLaw. Something that you continually go back to for references. Any recommendations from you lawyers out there?
 

DNW

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#@!(*&@(#! $(*@#&!(&*[email protected]

I can't take listening to her bullshit anymore. #@@!(*&(@#*&!
 

lawyerdad

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Maybe supplement your casebook with Gilbert's or Emmnauel or whoever does the outlines? Having to dig through case notes to find the substantive law is, in part, a function of the subject matter. Constitutional law, more so than many other areas, has developed primarily through caselaw and not statutory development, which means that the substantive law truly is embedded in the interstices of the various cases. But still, one of the commercial outlines may give you some general framework.
I think that back in law school we mostly used Choper's book.
Having a crappy teacher can be frustrating - but I'm not sure using a different basebook will make much of a difference. What do the people with the "good" professor use?
 

Mr. Checks

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I wasn't a fan of the guidebooks.

If you're feeling lost, you can usually get your bearings by reading the entire case, and then following up on Shepards for the headnotes that you're trying to learn about.

Remember that the casebook isn't really there to teach you things like the elements of a claim, but rather to trigger arguments in your head.
 

DNW

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Originally Posted by lawyerdad
Maybe supplement your casebook with Gilbert's or Emmnauel or whoever does the outlines? Having to dig through case notes to find the substantive law is, in part, a function of the subject matter. Constitutional law, more so than many other areas, has developed primarily through caselaw and not statutory development, which means that the substantive law truly is embedded in the interstices of the various cases. But still, one of the commercial outlines may give you some general framework. I think that back in law school we mostly used Choper's book. Having a crappy teacher can be frustrating - but I'm not sure using a different basebook will make much of a difference. What do the people with the "good" professor use?
I have two ConLaw outlines. While they're okay for review purposes, I don't think I can really "learn" ConLaw through them. The "good" professor, whom I had for ConLaw I, teaches from Sullivan's Constitution Law. The difference is not primarily from the book, it's from how a professor teaches. The "good" professor teases out rationales and context that are rooted in Constitutional history, his area of expertise, and paints a cogent and interesting picture. On the other hand, my professor teaches from not only a difficult and superfluous book, she dumbs down the opinions to a few powerpoint slides per case. If I want holdings and relevant statutes, I can take that from the cases myself. I'm here to learn from the wisdom accumulated through the years of learning that they've devoted to this topic, not from something they spent 10 minutes preparing before class.
 

Mr. Checks

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Originally Posted by DarkNWorn
I have two ConLaw outlines. While they're okay for review purposes, I don't think I can really "learn" ConLaw through them. The "good" professor, whom I had for ConLaw I, teaches from Sullivan's Constitution Law. The difference is not from the book, it's from how a professor teaches. The "good" professor teases out rationales that are rooted in Constitutional history, his area of expertise, and paints a cogent and interesting picture. On the other hand, my professor teaches from not only a difficult and superfluous book, she dumbs down the opinions to a few powerpoint slides per case. If I want holdings and relevant statutes, I can take that from the cases myself. I'm here to learn from the wisdom accumulated through the years of learning that they've devoted to this topic, not from something they spent 10 minutes preparing before class.

Ah, I thought you were lost. Ignore my prior post.

In your case I'd think that you'd find the law review articles interesting, but since you don't, how about just checking in on the websites of the various interest groups that are positioned opposite each other ? (cf. Federalist Society and American Constitutional Society)
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by DarkNWorn
I have two ConLaw outlines. While they're okay for review purposes, I don't think I can really "learn" ConLaw through them. The "good" professor, whom I had for ConLaw I, teaches from Sullivan's Constitution Law. The difference is not primarily from the book, it's from how a professor teaches. The "good" professor teases out rationales and context that are rooted in Constitutional history, his area of expertise, and paints a cogent and interesting picture. On the other hand, my professor teaches from not only a difficult and superfluous book, she dumbs down the opinions to a few powerpoint slides per case. If I want holdings and relevant statutes, I can take that from the cases myself. I'm here to learn from the wisdom accumulated through the years of learning that they've devoted to this topic, not from something they spent 10 minutes preparing before class.
Honestly, it's tough to steer you right. There's no substitute for a good prof. As Mr. Checks indicated, the best way to learn the material is to read the cases. Schedule-wise, is it possible for you to sit in on the other class? I remember my first year Contracts prof was a very genial but somewhat rambling and incoherent lecturer. The "other" contracts prof was a giant in the field and an excellent teacher (not, of course, necessarily the same thing). A couple of my classmates would sit in the other class to learn the material.
 

DNW

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I'm pretty sure my professor is going to flunk the course review surveys at the end of the semester. This will be the very first time I personally fail a professor. I might note that she's incompetent. While I'm not one who's picky about professors, one who teaches arguably the most important course in law school should be extremely competent about the topic.
 

DNW

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Originally Posted by lawyerdad
Honestly, it's tough to steer you right. There's no substitute for a good prof. As Mr. Checks indicated, the best way to learn the material is to read the cases. Schedule-wise, is it possible for you to sit in on the other class? I remember my first year Contracts prof was a very genial but somewhat rambling and incoherent lecturer. The "other" contracts prof was a giant in the field and an excellent teacher (not, of course, necessarily the same thing). A couple of my classmates would sit in the other class to learn the material.

Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately I have a conflicting schedule with his classes.

As for reading the cases, I read them as well as brief them. I even read note cases and law review articles. However, instead of talking about the primary case opinion, the additional material often just catalog related cases. Personally, I believe that reading is just the very beginning of a law education. Most of the things I've learned are from the professors exposing and teasing out context and rationales for court opinions, which usually cannot be found in outlines. Furthermore, it's the process of doing so that facilitates "learning" for me. For the lack of a good professor, I was hoping to find a good book that proceeds in the same direction.
 

DNW

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Originally Posted by Renault78law
Chemerinsky has some really helpful texts.

Yeah, that's the other text being taught here, but not IN MY CLASS! $#(@!*&%#($#@!

I'm so damn pissed at this class for what a waste of time and money it is that I might start a petition to remove the professor from the school and the class from my transcript. Probably 80% of the class would joint me.
 

odoreater

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My conlaw class used the book by Stone, Seidman, Sunstein, and Tushnet. I thought it was alright. Anyway, I don't think you should be too upset over your ConLaw professor. It's very difficult for anyone to really learn anything in a broad conlaw class. Usually, an ordinary ConLaw class is just a prerequisite for the juicier classes. I mean, how can you really learn all that much in a semester in an area of law that's enormous? What you should do is get through this class, and then take the meatier classes like: First Amendment, Individual Rights, Capital Punishment, Land Use and Regulatory Takings, Federal Courts, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Theory, Constitutional Torts, Election Law and so on.
 

DNW

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Originally Posted by odoreater
My conlaw class used the book by Stone, Seidman, Sunstein, and Tushnet.

That's the one. I think it's an incredibly inefficient way to teach ConLaw.
 

odoreater

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Originally Posted by DarkNWorn
That's the one. I think it's an incredibly inefficient way to teach ConLaw.

The book doesn't matter as much as the way the professor decides to teach from it, and like you said, you have a shitty professor. It probably wouldn't matter which book you had. In any case, like I mentioned earlier, if you're really interested in Constitutional law, you should probably take more advanced courses anyway.
 

Earthmover

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Oh man... I thought that might have been the book you were using...

I learned Conlaw I from Tushnet and took Advanced Conlaw Seminar with Seidman. Conlaw I was, by far, the best class I've ever taken in my life, especially learning from the primary writer of the sections and explain to the class exactly why the approach was taken, and flesh out how amazing that justification was.

The thing is, I've read through the Conlaw II part of the book, and it's not nearly as great as the first part; not even close, in fact. All I can say is that the book is extraordinary for Conlaw I, because there's no real substantive law in Conlaw I in the way there are for Conlaw II / individual rights. And I do agree with you, the high-theoretical approach that works so well for separation of powers doesn't work for Conlaw II at all. My Conlaw II was taught by a different professor who used a completely different book, citing this exact reason.

Anyway, if you want to learn substantive law, the first thing to do is find a good student outline. This is, by far, the best way to just pinpoint the substantive law of Individual rights. I think once you pinpoint the answers, all that other stuff you're doing will fit around it. I do think that commercial outlines are helpful for this too, but it will lack the focus and the tailored-ness of the outline to your school and class, and there's greater chance to get lost in the disarray.

Once you do that, I would simply read the major cases (multiple times, if needed) until you really get the nuances of it. I don't think following shepherdized leads are helpful at all (it can be in a different setting, but it's one of the least efficient ways to learn for a class). If you're focusing on non-CrimPro Individual rights, I think you'll start to notice a pattern and the chaotic logic behind the caselaw. If the case is confusing, I would ask a professor (not necessarily yours), or read some law reviews written about it (usually the first section will have a good summary, so you don't have to read all 100 pages unless you want to). But yeah, the key is to find some sort of clarity and logic in the process. My guess is that your teacher is probably too theoretical without context nor adequate background, which is sad.

Anyway, best of luck.
 

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